Sunday, May 19, 2013

Taking Off and Landing, Acts 1-2 Pentecost

WPC Santa Fe - Pentecost Sunday 2013
Acts 1-2 selected verses

God our creator, earth has many languages,
but your gospel proclaims your love
to all nations in one heavenly tongue.
As on the feast of Pentecost
Make us messengers of the good news
that, through the power of your Spirit,
all the world may unite in one song of praised;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen
The peace of God be with you.

Acts 1 and 2, Selected verses:
So when they had come together, they asked Jesus, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
“In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
  and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions,
  and your old men shall dream dreams.  Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Los que estaban reunidos con Jesús, le preguntaron:
—Señor, ¿vas a restablecer en este momento el reino de Israel?
Jesús les contestó:
—No les corresponde a ustedes conocer el día o el momento que el Padre ha fijado con su propia autoridad; pero cuando el Espíritu Santo venga sobre ustedes, recibirán poder y saldrán a dar testimonio de mí, en Jerusalén, en toda la región de Judea y de Samaria, y hasta en las partes más lejanas de la tierra.
Dicho esto, mientras ellos lo estaban mirando, Jesús fue levantado, y una nube lo envolvió y no lo volvieron a ver.
Cuando llegó la fiesta de Pentecostés, todos los creyentes se encontraban reunidos en un mismo lugar. De repente, un gran ruido que venía del cielo, como de un viento fuerte, resonó en toda la casa donde ellos estaban. Y se les aparecieron lenguas como de fuego que se repartieron, y sobre cada uno de ellos se asentó una. Y todos quedaron llenos del Espíritu Santo, y comenzaron a hablar en otras lenguas, según el Espíritu hacía que hablaran.

Entonces Pedro se puso de pie junto con los otros once apóstoles, y con voz fuerte dijo: «Judíos y todos los que viven en Jerusalén, sepan ustedes esto y oigan bien lo que les voy a decir. Éstos no están borrachos como ustedes creen, ya que apenas son las nueve de la mañana. Al contrario, aquí está sucediendo lo que anunció el profeta Joel, cuando dijo:
“Sucederá que en los últimos días, dice Dios, derramaré mi Espíritu sobre toda la humanidad;
los hijos e hijas de ustedes comunicarán mensajes proféticos, los jóvenes tendrán visiones,
y los viejos tendrán sueños. Pero todos los que invoquen el nombre del Señor,
alcanzarán la salvación.”

This morning’s sermon is about the courage to taking off and to land.

This winter my mother lucked out.  
She planned a trip here to visit,
dragging my reluctant homebody father along with her.
Yes, she wanted to see us, but she really wanted to see the spectacular Sandhill Cranes down at Bosque del Apache.  
It was President’s Day weekend -
AKA Mt Taylor Quad Weekend--Mid february -
late in the season,
would there be any birds?
Well of course there would be birds,
would there be any Cranes?
We crossed our fingers and toes as we drove south...
I was encouraged to drive fast,
as if that would ensure the Cranes would be there!
We arrived at the lookout deck in plenty of time to see any flocks coming in for the evening.
Signs were promising, as a few other birders were at the deck with their long lens camera that cost as much as a car.
Ruby’s running around containing her enthusiasm to a shouting whisper--Nana, we’re going to see Cranes--
her pink binoculars shifting around her neck,
Hers turned out to be our best pair.
Zia, just learning to walk, was falling this way and that trying to keep up with big sister.
We're trying to keep her from falling into the water.
You can imagine the other birders.

Suddenly, in the distance, a formation of birds.
distinctive sounds
Was it the cranes?
Hands and fingers signaled their magnificent arrival.
Their brilliant colors shimmered in the evening’s light, reflecting/absorbing, water, mountain, and sky.  
They had arrived--a small remnant of what had been there a few months earlier, but still, we were mesmerized.
And, of course they flew right over our heads and landed somewhere far away.
Such uncooperative birds.
We missed the landing.  

We did see where they had landed on our way to our lodging;
so, the next morning we made it out in the early cold to catch their take off.
Slowly, almost one by one or two by two, they began to wake up, uncurling their wrapped necks from their bodies, stretching a bit by walking...

and then, seemingly randomly, one bird, would declare itself leader by straining her neck, and then others would begin to imitate leaning forward until the neck was practically parallel to the water...the body would lean and then the wings would flap and off they would go high into the sky until out of sight.
Would they return? were they off for Canada for the season? Only God knew.  

Taking flight, and landing.
Planes, birds, frogs, kangaroos, rabbits, monkeys, mariposas, mariquitas,
Jesus, disciples, us.  

A fascinating don’t you think:  Jesus taking flight!
He leaves the apostles and goes high into the sky!

And now, on cue,
I signal the beloved painting in our chancel here. There he goes!

Different from Elijah who has chariots of fire to accompany his dramatic departure, Jesus, graceful as the dove that descended upon him at his baptism, floats off...
and he gets lost in the clouds.  
I’m sure Peter would have loved to have had Ruby’s pink binoculars....

Where did Jesus land?
How did he land?
The disciples didn’t know.
They were left dumbfounded,
scratching their heads at this unusually departure.  
They were wondering how they would land, themselves, given their new reality.

In many ways Jesus’ take off in flight was the the invitation for the disciples to take off as well, they weren’t exactly sure where they would be going,
or what flying would be like, but eventually, they had to take off,
begin a new journey...
And take off they did in dramatic fashion...tongues of fire.
Off they go, preaching, prophesying, visions.
Nothing would hold them back.
Not fear, not false accusations --they must be drunk!
Not with regret - if only I had gone fishing with Jesus that time he asked!  
Not floundering unsure of their mission with their leader no longer around.
Propelled by the Spirit of Fire
They learned languages, cultures, effective communication
They went beyond their comfort zones and insecurities.
Nothing could stop their dreams.
Their visions seemed limitless.
They were fulfilling Jesus’ desire share good news with the world in new and exciting ways.

They took off,
where would they land? God only knew.

In case you haven’t realized it over these past 6 and a half years,
I cherish opportunities to draw parallels between the life of Jesus and my own:)   

Trasie, Ruby Gene, Zia and I, now leave you,
thursday will be my last day, ending with Taize worship,
worship that has fed my soul, please come if you are able 5:30-6 Thursday evening
June 1 we will be in the big sky of Ghost Ranch this summer coordinating the College Staff
- we hope to see many of you there!
and then in August we will take flight to Georgia, close to family,
Trasie will land in her Doctoral Program of Social work...
I will land in a new role - Stay at Home Dad. Woah!
We leave you behind =  that’s the Jesus parallel.

And now you may - like the apostles in this case -
claim the Spirit of God in your hearts and in your lives as you take flight to discover how God may be leading in our absence.
Guided by the spirit:
Leaders emerge from among you.
Elders, who have shared their wisdom countless times with me,
gain a new sense of purpose.
Retired clergy, who so deeply have blessed my life, take on a new way of being a blessing to this congregation.

Over the years many have become part of and left this community. Noe Cervantes was one of these.
A brilliant artist, he painted a beautiful oil on canvas of the church building - a gift he gave us.
In it, he has Trasie standing outside on the sidewalk at the front of the sanctuary, holding a baby --Ruby had not yet been born when he painted it, and we weren’t sure we could get pregnant!

Then there’s this strange figure emerging from inside sanctuary doors, waving.
He said it was me.  

What I will see when I contemplate the picture are the people who are inside, I envision it to be the end of a worship service.
People are gathered standing singing Amen Amen!

I see You who are so down to earth - real,
you who are so amazingly gifted, gracious and good natured.  
You who laugh,
you who take risks and try new things,
you who have touched our lives so profoundly because of your spirit given gifts of love, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, gentleness, peace, and joy..   

As I have been saying goodbye to friends and colleagues in this community - so many have such wonderful things to say about this small church--how important your role is in the way of Peace and justice.

With our departure, things will not be the same as they have been--
as if things were ever the same while we were here!
and why should things stay the same.
You now have an opportunity to dig deep and find new resolve about why this community means so much to you.
If you’re not sure...
look around the room for a moment.
These are the dreamers, the prophets, the visionaries
Wasn’t the visioning process with George Packard inspiring.
And it ain’t over, yet.

In upcoming months, you may be challenged in new ways to move outside your comfort zone...Holy Spirit lead!
Part of what may no be the same is the way in which you search for and what you seek in a new pastor.
One thing is for sure...
She or he will be a fortunate one to join with you.

Jesus took off.
The apostles took off
The Topples are taking off
WPC is taking off!
Where did Jesus land?
Where will we land?
Wherever it is, it will be God’s miracle.  
The future is our God’s.
And I’m going to be following, watching, praying, hoping for what will come.

I want to read a poem, and I’m headin to a close, we have some celebratin to do...
And like all poetry, you take from it what you will.
How it fits is for you to discern:
Drinking With My Father in London by Phil Pardi
With his mate, Wilfred, who was dying
I discussed ornithology as best I could
Given the circumstances, my father flushed
And silent, a second pint before me,
My fish and chips not yet in sight.
Condensation covered the windows
and in the corner a couple played
tic-tac-toe with their fingers.
Behind it all, convincingly, the rain fell.
The mystery, Wilfred was saying, isn’t flight.
Flight is easy, he says, lifting his cap, but
landing--he tosses it at the coat rack--
landing is the miracle. Would you believe
thirty feet away the cap hits
and softly takes in the one bare peg?
Would you believe no one but me notices?
I’d like to come back as a bird,
Wilfred says, both hands on the glass
before him, and here my father
comes to life. You already
were a bird once, Wilfred, he says, next time
next time you get to be
the whole damn flock.

I sat with margaret sandoval last night and read her this poem.
 I teasingly asked her if she wanted to come back as  a bird.
Without hesitating she said
"yes, a finch. They seem to have so much fun."
Margaret gave me a book when I first arrived to set the tone  of our relationship: World’s Greatest Collection of Church Jokes

Here’s one I read recently: there are certain tribes that demand that when a man rises to speak, he must stand on one food while delivering his speech. The minute the lifted foot touches the ground the speech ends--or the speaker is forcibly silenced.

this is a good suggestion for preachers!
If only I had known when I first started here!

Could of been known across town as the guy who preaches standing on one foot!

How might things have turned out differently...

But, here we are, at the end.  

It has been such a beautiful ending -
kind words, warm embraces, loving gazes
- such a beautiful people.

Since we cannot cling to each other...
we cling to the holy spirit as we take off!
And pray for one another God’s grace as we miraculously land, again and again over the course of our lives.  

I want to close using words of Henri Nouwen about the Holy Spirit of God.

"When we speak about the Holy Spirit, we speak about the breath of God, breathing in us.
The Greek word for 'spirit' is pneuma, which means 'breath.'
We are seldom aware of our breathing.
It is so essential for life that we only think about it when something is wrong with it.
The Spirit of God is like our breath.
God's spirit is more intimate to us than we are to ourselves.
We might not often be aware of it,
but without it we cannot live a 'spiritual life.'
It is the Holy Spirit of God who prays in us, who offers us the gifts of love, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, gentleness, peace, and joy.
It is the Holy Spirit who offers us the life that death cannot destroy.
Let us always pray: 'Come, Holy Spirit, come.'"
And so we pray: come holy spirit, come”

as we sing together Hymn #156 in the red hymnal - Santo Espiritu Desciende

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Peacemaking Mother's Day

Discover Life, Again: Peacemaking Mothers

Intro to Worship service
This Sunday concludes the seven week Easter Series entitled Discover Life, Again.
We began on Easter Sunday when most if not all of us said we would love to be able to see life with hope, optimism, stuff of resurrection.  Reason to smile like my daughter Zia.

Today, Mother’s Day, seems a most fitting way to conclude the series.
From all mothers comes life - Life comes forth from our mother Earth....
Life comes forth from the womb of woman.
Life a gift which we may cherish now, in this moment.  

And so we honor our mothers...our life givers.
And more deeply than may be customary practice on Mother's Day.
this morning we are going to honor the original intention by those who urged our country to have a designated Mother’s Day, the likes of Julia Ward Howe and Ann Jarvis (quotes and ideas come primarily from Peace Talks Radio).  
These desired that Mother’s Day be a day, not in which women are to be treated special or pampered,
But a day given to Women of all nations to convene with one another to discover ways to bring about peace in this world.
When I told Trasie that we were going to start celebrating Mother’s day this way, she said great, you take the kids and I’ll convene with some of my friends!  

Julia Ward Howe and Ann Jarvis lived in the later half of the 19th century.
Among their sufferings, they lived through the brutalities of the Civil War--
the bitterness and hatred that swept across the country;
the death and carnage of sons and husbands....  
THe voices of women rose from the smoky ashes of battlefield, Crying out for peace.
And they sought to silence the drumbeats of war perpetuated by men.
Women saw continued efforts to obtain peace through war was simply illogical -- how would what had not worked for centuries miraculously start working?
Why don’t we try something completely radical, women said, that we’ve never tried which is to get peace through peace.
Give us a Day to figure out a way to make peace!
Mother’s Day would be a Peacemaking Day, they declared.
It would be a day for all women to gather together in this effort, for Ward Howe recognized:  
“Every woman is not in God’s providence a wife and every wife is not a mother, but every true woman has the mother in her and this grand spiritual motherhood exerting its influence and watchfulness and all the walks of life will give every woman a noble part to perform in the great drama of the world.”

Finally, in 1914, the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution signed by President Woodrow Wilson establishing Mother’s Day.
But!, but, the all male lawmakers put forth this day as a way to actually establish women’s domestic roles,
and ignored and dismissed women’s roles as activists in the public arena.

And then less than a generation after the establishment of Mother’s Day as a National Holiday, Ann Jarvis’ daughter, who carried on the peacemaking work of her mother, became increasingly concerned over the commercialization of Mother’s Day; the selling of the cards and the flowers.
How better to disempower a strong and incredibly noble belief than to commercialize it.  
but we can resist; and that is What we are doing this morning..

“Let no civilized nation from henceforth and forever admit or recognize the instrumentality of war as worth of Christian society.
Let the fact of human brotherhood be taught to the babe in his cradle.
Said Julia Ward Howe.

Today our worship celebrates LIFE by honoring the loving Spirit of women who seek to create a more peaceable world; and by challenging us as followers of Jesus to be Peacemakers.

Jesus said, My peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.  
The peace of the Lord be with you.

As we share a sign of peace, the children are going to pass out peace stickers to oeveryone!
A badge of honor.  Let us share a sign of peace.

Matthew 5:3-10 and John 14:23-27
(I only gave a brief introduction before deacon Phoebe Girard preached!)

Something the beatitudes of Jesus found in Matthew demonstrate:
Anything that increases exchange, compassion, intimacy between others manifests the grace of God.
By contrast whatever separates, divides, polarizes is opposed to the manifestation of the grace of God.
Because peacemaking is at the heart of God’s vision for the world - a world in which swords are turned to plowshares, it seems that each characteristic in the beatitudes is a characteristic of being a peacemaker.  
-when we are poor, rather than rich and powerful
-when we mourn or are persecuted instead of retaliate.
-When we are pure in heart and can see God’s way of peace
-When we are meek and do not insist on our own way.
-When we seek after justice, and advocate for Peace

Whether it’s the search for inner peace, or learning how we can reduce conflict with others, in our homes, schools, workplaces or between nations, we are called to be peacemakers as followers of Jesus.
This is the way Jesus lead,
this is what Jesus left with his disciples,  
Peace I leave with you....

Perhaps they wondered if they would be able to sustain that peacemaking mission in his absence; don’t you wonder if we can do it on our own?
Bring about peace in this world?
The challenges are great.  
Don’t let your hearts be troubled...Jesus said.
Before Jesus left the disciples he assured them that the Advocate would be with them.
The Advocate would empower them to be blessed peacemakers,
The Advocate would sustain them in their work!
We witness this sustaining empowering power of the Holy Spirit as we witness the work of peacemakers throughout time and history.  

Phoebe Girard has courageously and gracefully taken up the banner of Peacemaker in her own life. She has led peacemaking studies in this church, including the monthly Peace and Justice meetings as well as a Saturday at Ghost Ranch a few weeks ago in which 30 of us gathered to discuss what being a Peacemaking Church means. She works with the Interfaith Social Justice Network here in Santa Fe; as well as diligently with Israel Palestine issues, including a camp for young girls of both nationalities to come to New Mexico over the summer to deepen relationships with each other as a way of creating peace.

I asked Phoebe if she would share with the congregation a bit of her own story, her own testimony, her own perspective about what Peacemaking is about.  
And she readily said YES!
She is passionate about this essential work, and so I’m so thankful to God for her witness and to have the opportunity to hear from her this morning....

THank you Phoebe!